We see them everyday, and yet not many of us actually notice them. The people who send our daily cup of coffee to our tables, the ones who take our orders at the counter and the ones who clean up our tables when we’re done with our meals. The service industry has often been made to sound like it is not as noble a role as in the corporate world… as if it lacks the opportunities to advance very far or to teach us anything worth learning..
Well, in my opinion, this could not be further from the truth. I’ve worked in numerous capacities within the service industry on a part-time basis throughout my university life, be it barista and service staff in a cafe, to the guy scooping ice cream in an ice cream parlor, as well as the sales assistant at a Vape shop.
It was during my brief stint working at a cafe that one of my colleagues (a woman in her 40s) told me:
“I’ve worked as a lawyer, and then as a sales executive at numerous large companies, but none of which comes close to the happiness I get coming here day after day. I’ve made my money, and being here allows me to make something more of myself.”
Bordering on being completely un-glamorous and being excessively physically demanding at times, many people look down at jobs in the service industry due to its lower financial compensation as compared to other professions. However, working in the service industry isn’t without its perks. Throughout my time in it, I’ve learned many new things and have had experiences I would never have been able to garner if I was just sitting at home during the weekends or hanging out at shopping centres over my semester breaks.
Hence, I have taken it upon myself to tell as many people as I can about why working in the service industry at least once in your life is something everyone should do.
Improving Your Social Skills
I suppose it goes without saying that one of the key components of the service industry is communicating with the customers, as well as the superiors. Being in the industry usually forces one to come face to face with all sorts of individuals.
I, for one, have met customers who left me tips and even came to thank me personally at the bar counter before they left the cafe I worked at, and I have also met people who have screamed at me and complained to my manager when I forgot to leave a teaspoon next to their cup of tea.
The truth is, there are many types of people in this world. There are people who are nice beyond reason, and there are those who test our patience to the extent we start mentally hitting them with sticks. There is no better place in the world to meet and learn about people, than from the viewpoint of the humble staff who observe them everyday while their guard is down, sipping on a cup of coffee.
Once upon a time, I was an extremely socially awkward little boy, but having to communicate with different types of people has helped me improve my social skills, as well as learning how best to deal with people who test our patience.
Learning New Skills (Karate Kid Style)
Anyone who’s watched the Karate Kid (I’m referring to the Pat Morita version, but for fans of the Jackie Chan version, I suppose that works for this reference as well) remembers how Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel karate by making him repeatedly paint the walls of his home, as well as polish his car, time and again. Daniel eventually loses his temper, thinking he’s being used as free labor as opposed to being taught karate. Mr. Miyagi then shows him then everything he has been doing has actually led to Daniel becoming very proficient at karate.
Okay, well no doubt we won’t end up being able to beat up bad guys with our bare hands from what we learn at a cafe or restaurant. But a good example would be when I was being trained for the use of coffee machines as well as how to create the best conditions to make the perfect cup of coffee, I soon learned that these lessons could also be applied in many other places such as my high school physics class. Applying the concept of heat transfer and mixing of liquids that I learned through my time as a barista and using it as an example in my physics examination led to me getting a pretty strong A.
Another good example would be learning how to make pancakes while I was working kitchen duty at a cafe, a task that seemed exhaustingly tedious and repetitive. However, I later learned that making a girl pancakes for breakfast is a wayyy bigger plus point than say, bringing her to a cafe for pancakes. So, don’t let anyone tell you the skills you acquire in the service industry aren’t useful, even the things that seem like the most trivial things might give you an edge in your future endeavors.
[Joyce: To add on to Cavin’s point, i waitressed in a French restaurant in London back in 2000 for a short time and learnt the classical way of serving food, how to open a bottle of wine properly in front of customers, elegantly sweep crumbs off the table before dessert, and such. I feel that any work one does at the beginning of their work life is important to set ground rules for how you’d work thereafter. And don’t forget… it is a gift to serve as it is to be served ]
Friends are always nice aren’t they? And when you’re in the industry, you will make friends. More often than not, you will learn to appreciate and lean on these friends for support. Many of the friends I’ve made (some of which are still some of my closest friends) were in the industry for the same reason as I, to earn a few bucks, pass the time and learn new things. Heck, I even know a couple that eventually got married after they met while working part-time in the service industry. He was a waiter, and she was a barista, fast forward 4 years and they are now married happily with a child on the way
The benefits don’t stop at just making new friends though. When I was working part-time at a Vape Shop in Kelana Jaya, I found myself working alongside a friend from my college class. I could tell you we were good friends at the time we started, but having to work together really allowed us to get to know each other better, and until today, I still consider him to be one of my most trusted friends. The millennials (yes that includes me), live by the phrase YOLO (you only live once), and although I consider some of the actions made using this phrase as an excuse to be completely senseless and ridiculous, there is some truth to the phrase. We do only live once, and I think life isn’t really worth living unless we have friends to live it with.
[Joyce: Cavin you’re such an emo nemo XD True, i remember having a blast drinking leftover wine with the other waitresses from Bulgaria and Madagascar after the restaurant shut cos we can’t serve wine from the bottles when it’s an inch from the base. More fun for us!]
Staff Discounts Are Pretty Cool
Now, the icing on the cake, aside from all the above, one of the perks of the industry is that they usually include staff discounts and benefits. Whether it be discounts for the mouthwatering food in a cafe, to having dibs on the newest designs when you’re working in a boutique, to getting discounts on consumables and accessories when you’re working at a vape shop (or any other shop to begin with, your call). These little perks make working in the industry just that little bit more rewarding.
[Joyce: This reminds of of Claudia’s story, who worked in Prada when she was a teenager just so she could buy a headband at half price off -_-]
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So, here’s me hoping I have managed to inspire some of you to jump on the service industry wagon, whether it’s just part-time, or full-time. It really is a rewarding profession. And for those who still think the industry isn’t for you, I hope that this read has at least helped you see the people in the industry around you in a new light.
[Joyce: I agree! Always be polite, sensitive and thankful to the people who are serving you! Unless they’re incompetent, then complain AFTER you’ve got your food!]
So go ahead and apply! It truly isn’t hard to find one, with cafes at almost every corner, and shopping mall tenants are almost always looking for some additional help if they think you can help them.
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